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Caring for the Terminally Ill Child
A Child's Concept of Death
For infants and toddlers, death has very little meaning. School-aged children begin to understand death as permanent, universal, and inevitable. A predominant theme in adolescence is a feeling of immortality or being exempt from death.
Anticipatory grief is similar to the normal process of mourning, but it occurs before the actual death.
Discussing Death with Children
The ultimate goal in discussing death with a dying child is to optimize his or her comfort and alleviate any fears. If the child is not ready to discuss death, the most helpful step parents can take is to wait until he or she is ready.
For Parents: Important Decisions to Be Made in the Dying Process
Detailed information on important decisions to be made when a child is dying, including the right to refuse treatment, to die at home versus the hospital, advanced directives, do not resuscitate, autopsy, organ donation, palliative hospice care, and funeral arrangements.
Grief and Bereavement
The process of grieving is often long and painful for parents, siblings, relatives, friends, peers, teachers, neighbors, and anyone that understands the loss of a child.
The goal of hospice care is to provide the terminally ill child peace, comfort, and dignity.
Physical Needs of the Dying Child
A terminally ill child has many of the same needs as any seriously ill child, including a routine for sleep and rest, and for pain management.
Psychosocial Needs of the Dying Child
The child with a terminal illness has the same need for love, emotional support, and normal activities as any person facing death.
Supportive, or palliative, care is care aimed at comfort of the child versus cure and treatment.
The Dying Process
Understanding the physical and mental changes the body goes through as death occurs, may help alleviate some fears and misconceptions about death.